Beautiful meals are healthy meals.
Did you know that eating colorful foods helps you feel better and supports your emotional and physical health?
Their secret weapon lies in what are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. There are thousands of them. Every plant has them. They have names like Flavonoids (highest in tea, onions, apples, and much more), Sulforaphane (found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and radishes), Carotenoids (yes found in carrots, also tomatoes and greens), Allicin (found in garlic), Resveratrol (found in purple grape juice) and Curcuminoids (found in Turmeric).
They are identified by their color. So, no need to remember names or what each phytonutrient does. Just aim to get 2 or more different colors on your plate as often as you can.
Phytonutrients work in the plant in response to their environment. The bright colors attract pollinators. Phytonutrients also protect the plant and defend it against germs, bugs, fungi, and other threats. They give plant foods their color, taste, and aroma.
They are also powerful defenders of our health. They have been shown to boost the immune system and brain health (including memory and mood). They support our digestive system, help us relax, improve our sleep and manage stress. They are powerful fighters of inflammation, which is an underlying factor in health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and chronic illnesses. They also improve cardiovascular health and protect against cancer and have anti-microbial and anti-bacterial benefits.
Phytonutrients are found in fruits and vegetables as well as legumes (beans), whole grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and teas. Basically, every edible plant has its own specialized package of benefits for us.
Studies show that higher intakes of plant foods are associated with lower risk of chronic illness.
Phytonutrients are identified by color – green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple, and white. Which is why it’s important to eat foods of every color. Think about the foods you’ve been eating. How much variety of color is there? Is your plate mostly beige? Add some color with melon and kiwi at breakfast and a colorful salad or cooked vegetables at lunch or dinner. Try some red quinoa, black beans, or kidney beans. Even nuts and seeds sprinkled over your salad count. Every little bit helps.
Aim to include one serving each of red, yellow, orange, green, and purple-blue fruit or vegetables and one serving each of legumes (beans) and nuts or seeds every day.
If that sounds like a lot come see me and we’ll talk about strategies that will work for you. Or just stop by my office, Commons 151 in The Link, for a handout to help you get started adding more phytonutrients into your day.
- Vegetables: ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw, ½ cup vegetable juice.
- Fruits: One medium fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit, ½ cup fruit juice, ½ cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. (Canned fruit in its own juice, no sugar or sweetener added preferred)
- Nuts: 1 ½ ounces nuts (~1/3 cup), 2 Tablespoons nut butter
- Seeds: 2 Tablespoons or 1½ ounce
- Legumes: ½ cup cooked
- Whole Grains: 1/3 cup to ½ cup cooked pasta or grain, 1 slice of bread, 1 oz dry cereal
- Teas: 1 cup
If you’d like more information about this or any other nutrition topic reach out to UDS Dietitian Terry Passano at email@example.com.
Clinical Evidence of Benefits of Phytonutrients in Human Healthcare. April 2022 National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9102588/